Here are some thoughts from 5th grade catechist Nick Yonto as he reflects back on his experience of being featured on Catechists in Action. Thanks Nick!
When Joe first approached me about filming my RE class I wasn’t sure if I was ready to open myself up to any criticism or critique. While I have been trained as a teacher it has been several years since I was last in a classroom in front of students. Between Joe’s explanation of the video segments and the comments, I have found the response to be overwhelmingly positive.
When Joe asked me for one thing I was concerned about or wanted help with I mentioned pacing right away. When teaching, I worked with 6th-8th grade students. I have found there is a big difference in how long it takes 5th graders in RE to accomplish something versus 6th graders in school. The upside is that I am always over-prepared for my lessons. The down side is that I usually struggle to fit the information I need to cover into my allotted time. While this format (3-5 minute video clips) does not lend itself to analyzing the pace of the entire class, I still found it incredibly valuable to watch myself teach.
One thing that stood out to me as I watched the video is where I hold my book. I noticed right away that I often bring my book right to my chin. While I don’t think this is distracting for students, I believe it closes me off from the class. This is something I have been consciously working on since the first video was posted.
I have also worked to get more information up on the board before class. While I find it helpful to have things pre-written on the board, I still have trouble finding ways to hide information from those students who are always eager to work ahead in hopes they will have a few free minutes if they can finish everything before we get there. My current solution is to cover the information (usually by taping sheets of colored paper to the board) that I don’t want to expose to my students yet. So far, the students find it funny that I play up the big unveiling and it simply turns out to be a vocabulary word on the board. To keep this interest going I plan on hiding activity instructions behind the paper soon. This way the students will not be conditioned that hidden information is always/only vocabulary words.
Perhaps the most unexpected part of this experience has come from reading the comments that people have posted. They have been very positive and encouraging. I have also been surprised to see how many struggle with a lack of preparation time in their classrooms, a lack of cooperation between their RE program and the parish school, or even a feeling that they are somewhat isolated in their classroom from the rest of their program. This experience has been a blessing for me in that it has been a chance to learn about my teaching styles, to be exposed to so many good ideas, to understand what a great program I am a part of, and hopefully I will be able to translate this into a blessing for my students as well.